Saturday, May 4, 2013

Windy Pemberton May 4

Windy Pembie flight.

The NE winds were forecast to be quite significant today but it still looked doable so MacKenzie launch was quite crowded by 2pm.  No cu development we could see from launch (although later on we would see some in the backcountry) and clear blue skies meant it was clearly outflow aloft.

You can see the lennies forming in the distance.
The first people grovelled around for about 30 minutes before it appeared to turn on at which point everyone else launched.  I actually got up quite easily directly over launch, all the way to upper launch at which point the NE wind made itself quite known!  Once above the ridgetop we were basically pointing at the mountains and having to crab sideways to get any distance...it was quite slow going at times.  And the thermals were leaning way over the valley so after topping out, we'd have to tack back to the mountain to continue along or risk being flushed off the mountain range.

Thermals were rather strong but smooth up high, and we were getting to 2800m easily.  At this altitude my GPS was reading 25kph of NE wind and we could now see lenticular-type clouds forming in the interior...there was certainly a lot of wind about!  And it was funneling through every valley that had a north or east orientation: it was funneling through from just behind Barbour Mountain, and it was really squeezing through at Hurley Pass!

In fact at Hurley Pass I decided I'd had enough of the strong NE winds, so the next thermal I took drifted me into the Pemberton valley (like all the others) and I let it.  In fact I drifted all the way over to Camel's Hump and the east side of the valley.

Thermal-frisbeeing over to the east side of the valley.
The conditions were *so* much smoother over on the east side of the valley, I decided to stay and enjoy it!  Not much actual lift over there (it was quite late and the sun was completely on the wrong side), but I was able to find nice lifty lines along the ridgetops all the way to Miller ridge.  A nice climb on the sunny side directly over the hidden valley (still encased in snow) but not really enough altitude to glide directly to Mt. Currie (which I was thinking might be really nice just about now, facing NW and all that).

Because the MacKenzie side had produced much higher lift earlier in the flight (albeit very rough), I decided to glide back to launch and try to get the altitudes I had been getting before, in order to make the glide to Currie.  But now those of us below the ridgetop had a hard time breaking through 1600m...I ended up going after getting to 1800m, while those who had returned from Goat Pk etc and stayed high had a much nicer glide over to Currie.  I had terrible sink on the way over, 2-3m/s for a large part of it, and arrived on the slopes of Currie too low to make it work, and ended up landing at the airport.  But Andrew and Peter left from higher (2300m?) and were able to make it work.
Icefields on the east side of the valley.

Meanwhile some pilots had opted to go big and were past the Hurley Pass and onwards to Handcart or North Creek, turning around at the 40-45km mark.  Everyone reported strong winds and rough conditions on the west side of the valley, and much mellower conditions on the east side of the valley.  I'm kinda glad I decided against going big in those kinds of wind conditions...flying the Miller side was way smoother and much more enjoyable than the pummel-fest that you experience past Hurley Pass on windy days!

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